David Short, the Tour Leader on our most recent Eclipse Tour (China, July 2009) was the first to reach us with a report from China about the eclipse he just witnessed. This is his story about the day...
"The alarm clock rang insistently at 04.30, giving me ten minutes to come-to and give an early morning call to my group. It was going to be worth it though – my first total solar eclipse!
We had travelled from Tashkent, Uzbekistan; following the Silk Road – a series of ancient routes that snake across the Middle East, Central Asia and China.
Arriving the night before from the ancient city of Xi’an, Shanghai was big and brash; a symbol of the new China. I had always wanted to visit this exciting city after watching a television documentary as a young child.
My group had now assembled in the lobby of our comfortable hotel; we grabbed our breakfast boxes and set off for the journey to the eclipse site. The departure from Shanghai had been planned with military precision by Laura Vaughan from the Explore office with 12 separate groups and their respective tour leaders and coaches sweeping out of the front entrance.
The weather was not too encouraging as we drove through the suburbs of Shanghai and down towards Haining.
On arrival, it was clear that this was a big event with police controlling the traffic and special passes issued to all of us to enable smooth entry into the reserved areas.
The Explore reserved area was next to a pavilion reserved for a member of the Thai royal family!
The weather had, by now, started to improve and I was hopeful of at least a glimpse of the moon ‘eating’ into the sun. The Chinese word for eclipse is ‘rishi’ which literally means ‘eaten sun’!
First contact (when the moon first touches the sun) was at 08:21:57.7 (to be exact) and a great roar went up from the crowd as the clouds started to thin. It was an incredible experience! Towards totality, the birds stopped chattering and streetlamps started to come on. It was the speed of the dimming of the sunlight that really amazed me. Of course I was expecting it to become dark, but nothing had quite prepared me for the unexpected emotions that swept over me as I watched in awe at this incredible natural event!
This was not the only natural event to be seen that day. At 12.15, a tidal bore swept up the Qiantang River, next to our eclipse site. This is the only site of a tidal bore in China and can reach up to nine metres in height. Although it did not get to that height, it was still an impressive sight. Indeed, one of my group asked me what the third natural phenomenon was going to be that day!
I was pleased to have experienced my first total eclipse – albeit a little cloudy. Many of my group had been on many of the Explore eclipse tours – it is obviously addictive! Indeed, one of our party had already booked for the next total eclipse in Easter Island next year."
David Short - Tour Leader SCE1 30JUN09